Facebook Canvas has been with us for just over a year and, whilst there are many brands that have made it work, there are others who have struggled with the new medium.
Most Facebook users will have seen a Canvas at some point in the last year, even if they probably haven’t noticed (a point we’ll touch on later). Launched to much fanfare at the end of 2015, we have seen many brands dip their toe into this platform with varying degrees of success.
We’ve taken a look at some of those successes and failures in an attempt to find the key ingredients for success on Facebook Canvas.
1: Plan your story
Knowing what you want to say on Canvas is vital. You’re trying to tell a story on a medium where attention spans are limited at best, so make sure that the story you want to tell is carefully constructed and that you design your Canvas to really bring it to life.
Many organisations will look at initiatives such as Canvas and feel that it may not necessarily work for their brand, largely because they don’t feel that they have a ‘story’ to tell. However, even the most seemingly mundane of products and brands have some sort of back story that they can share with the world.
Take, for example, Wendy’s ‘Anatomy of a Burger’ Canvas. While the burger trend fueled by TV shows such as ‘Man vs Food’ may have help here, the reality is that Wendy’s is an everyday brand, selling an everyday product. There’s nothing fundamentally unique or inspiring about what the brand is, or what it offers.
But that hasn’t stopped the brand using Canvas to really showcase its core product and, quite literally, deconstructing the story behind it.
2: Utilise your assets
Canvas uses a series of modules in order to help you tell your story, allowing you to use a mixture of different assets. One of the benefits of this is simplicity – half of Facebook’s Canvas ads are built in less than ten minutes.
Of course, that doesn’t factor in the time and cost of creating the assets, but once you have these in your repository to hand, building the Canvas itself it extremely easy.
Each module has its own merits and value, and each provides you with varying degrees of creative licence. With the video module for example, you have up to two minutes of video to play with. Whilst you could use this two minutes for one video, you could equally use it for 240 second-long videos, if you felt that would benefit your storytelling.
And of course, the button modules are extremely important to any Canvas campaign. These will either facilitate a continuation of the customer journey, encouraging them to engage further, or it will drive more transactional engagements – namely a purchase or booking.
Make sure that you are using the right assets, in the right way, to really tell your story. Consider what your audiences are going to engage with, how they are likely to engage with it, and create the most suitable assets. Don’t ignore a medium of content just because it’s harder to create, and don’t fall into the trap of creative that looks great, but misses the core objective.
3: Go easy on the text
We live in the ‘TL:DR’ (“too long, didn’t read” for the uninitiated among you) era – an era where attention spans are limited and where you have to be extremely clever to capture them. Put simply, reams and reams of text won’t cut through.
You need to focus on using rich media to tell your story and, crucially, to retain the attention of a user that is just a very small flick of their scrolling finger away from moving on.
Text undoubtedly has a place in the overall message, but use it only where it is going to be effective.
4: Module synergy is important
Remember how we mentioned how easy it is to use modules to pull together your Canvas? Well, make sure that the modules that you do use tell your story in a way that is consistent and concise.
Mixing things up keeps the users engaged but if you’ve used a tilt to pan ten times on the trot, the canvas will lose its appeal rather quickly. Think about how you could use each module, and which module is most suitable for that particular part of the narrative.
Canvas is a relatively new platform and, as a result, marketers are still very much getting to grips with what works, what doesn’t work, and how best to get their story to the audiences that they want to engage.
For every Canvas campaign that has succeeded, there have been many more than completely failed to hit the mark.
With so many different ways in which to tell your story, test and experiment with different creative approaches. A/B testing really can give you some valuable insights into this medium, what works, and what doesn’t work, so play around with different forms of creative, different modules and orders to see what gains the most engagement and what is most effective at delivering on your objectives.
A good example of trialling different approaches is Carnival Cruises, which demonstrated the locations that each of its promoted voyages called at, highlighting the best bits of each of the locations.
In this instance, Carnival can trial different formats for each cruise product and for each destination and determine which module formats are most effective for each audience segment, each cruise and for each destination.
6: Get noticed
As we’ve mentioned before, Facebook is the world where attention spans are small, and the number of people fighting for that attention keeps growing.
Facebook arguably doesn’t help itself here by presenting Canvas’ in a rather unassuming impression-mode. Instead of using Canvas as an invitation to a world of interaction, we are very much in the arena of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’.
There are a number of ways in which brands have tried to overcome this problem, with many turning to what seem to be conventional conversion rate optimization techniques to make their content stand out.
We have seen, for example, pulsating circles, pointing arrows, and many other techniques pointing to the “open here” button, the user’s attention is directed to encourage engagement.
One such example that we particularly like was used by Paul Hollywood’s ‘Hollywood Bakes’ Canvas, which encouraged users to scroll through his range of baking products with by using his alluring/creepy eyes (I’ll let you decide which) pointing downwards at the next page of the Canvas.
So what can we conclude from this?
Well, there is still no perfect formula for Canvas, and what works for one brand may not work for another, but what is important is that you think extremely carefully about the kind of story that you want to tell, how that story translates to social media audiences, and what medium and methods are the most effective at telling that story.
The truth is that with a format that is still in its infancy, that latter aspect is only likely to come through a period of testing and refinement. Experiment, measure and tweak your campaigns to see what works.
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